Tales of the Hashashin: First Book
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August 25th, 2012 (1:02 AM). Edited August 25th, 2012 by Jönne.
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Chapter 8: Divine Temple
In a single night, Erca was covered in snow. The streets were almost blocked by the snow, the Pokemon would slowly disappear from them. Chantalai, who was used to these conditions from his homeland, had no problem running on the thick snow. After he parted ways with Alinthea and Richard in front of the Fiery Palace, he crossed the empty streets, navigating. He had already learned the city's paths; a map of some kind, was carved onto his memory.
Karnos was gone from the night sky, to return in the dawn; it had given its place to millions of stars, which were closer to each other than how we see them in earth. Chantalai raised his head to observe the sky, noticing the positions of the stars had changed ever since he had last looked at them. He stopped, briefly, in the middle of the street, to admire another wonder of this world. His thoughts jumped to Alinthea, for some reason; her silk fur, her passionate eyes and her delicate manners. He snapped out of it only when he walked into Conrad's secret shop. The Tailor greeted him firmly and ordered him to sleep, after giving him some berries - Chantalai did not refuse, as he walked slowly like a ghost through the corridor towards his room.
'So what did you find out, Chantalai?' Conrad was sitting on the table, Chantalai had just woken up and was wide awake, standing on the doorstep of the dark room.
'Baron Necro is meeting with the Pope in secret, somewhen today. I don't know where. I've found Alinthea, too.'
'Forget about Alinthea! They won't harm her! Focus on taking down the Baron!'
Chantalai was getting angry now. He headed over the table and slammed his tightened fists on it, producing a strange metallic sound that echoed in the room. Sparks flew off his eyes as he stared at Conrad who had a tight expression on his face.
'Why don't you get off this place and go protect her, then! It seems like I am the only one working here!'
Conrad joined his hands together and looked at Chantalai calmly.
'I went out yesterday. I know where the Baron will be this evening.'
The Zoroark's misplaced anger vanished when he heard Conrad did not just sit home. He lifted his fists from the table and looked around, finding the cloak and his armour on his chair. He begun attaching his only belongings onto his body. He tightened the belt around his cloak as he was thinking. Conrad continued speaking.
'Trade Square, the Dusknoir will initiate the Carnival of Life and then leave the scene - keep an eye on him.'
'The Carnival of Life?'
'It's an anthem dedicated to Life. It is of Hotorian origin.'
'What kind of carnival is it?' Chantalai asked, intrigued and with his eyebrows raised. He knew the Hotorian nation was representing the peaceful perception of life, but they still held the honour of war againist their enemies, the Tocan.
'The carnival calls everyone to dress up as their most important aspect of their lives; great vehicles representing various parts of a Pokemon's life will roll in the main street in two days after the Merchant King signaled the start of the carnival.'
'All this is extremely convinient for me,' Chantalai said, not caring about the Carnival itself; he caught Conrad looking at his cloak, and the two made the same thoughts: it would help Chantalai stay hidden.
'Chantalai, before you go, there is something we two must discuss.'
The Zoroark stared at him, peering into his eyes. He crossed his arms, waiting.
'The powers you have will help the Frontier greatly, and that will not go unnoticed. You'll soon be a legend,' Conrad said with a touch of jealousy in his voice, 'but you are still a spy, nothing more, and if they catch you, they will torture you to reveal our secrets.' He got up, headed over to the drawer and opened it, picking up a small box from inside. The Zangoose approached Chantalai, offering him the box. 'These are capsules filled with poison. You do prefer death over the torture the Dark Cult would put you through, correct?'
Chantalai nodded and snatched the box, opening it. It was full of green capsules containing a lethal dose of poison.
'Keep one in your mouth and bite it down if you ever get caught.'
The Zoroark put a capsule in his mouth, as instructed. He felt it was sturdy enough to keep intact; he put it under his tongue, just in case. It stuck there as if it was poured with glue before. Chantalai looked at Conrad again, nodding to thank him while attaching the box onto one of his belt's hatches. At that point, he did not believe he would ever need to use poison.
Chantalai was now atop one of the buildings that surrounded Trade Square. Pokemon, citizens and travellers, had gathered around a castle-like building in the northern side of the square, filling it up entirely. He shook his head in response to the cacophony the crowd's cheery conversations emitted; he suddenly realized that his hearing was stronger than it was before - he could separate each noise in his head and focus on it. That way, he could hear what each Pokemon was saying. He could even hear the Pokemon that decided to stay in their houses that were all around the square. Chantalai suddenly remembered his father who was able to hear someone calling him from the village, which was at least two miles away from their house.
Bells sounded from the castle-like building; Chantalai realized it was the Dark Cult's church. They had built it as a symbol of honour and peace with the city, but the Frontier had serious reasons to believe their purpose there was to control the city. The Pope Lanterno Mori, coming from the citadel of Alamagna, would be there to communicate with Baron Necro, nonetheless. Necro was running the town now, and every close-minded citizen would fall for the trap the Dark Cult had set againist them and follow the Dusknoir to the dark religion that was coming from the south. But Chantalai knew there were still people who valiantly fought againist the Baron, even in secret.
A dark figure exited the church and the whole crowd applaused. The Zoroark stood silent on the tip of the roof of the building in his owling position, with his eyes fixed on the Dusknoir and his personal guards, some creepy looking Banettes. The Baron raised his hands in the air to make Ercans stop their applause; Chantalai detected the darkness in his heart from where he was sitting and wondered how the people could trust such a Pokemon. He seemed to had seen the powers of the Nether Plane himself, and was somehow inspired by them.
'This day, we celebrate the opening of the Carnival of Life, a traditional anthem that will last five days, as usual. I, being the Merchant King, will commence the carnival by ordering the first shots of the fireworks I personally paid for!'
He motioned his hand to the guards behind him, Chantalai looking at him ironically, thinking how easily he would send him to the Nether Plane. Despite his arrogance, he held himself back. As the black fireworks darkened the sky, Chantalai approached the Dusknoir who was leaving the scene. The Baron seemed bored of all this, somehow, like he was forced to do it in order to please the crowds.
Chantalai spotted a Honchcrow in the darkness of the alley on the back of the church, where the Dusknoir was headed. The Honchcrow was waiting for the Baron to reach him; the Zoroark was right above them, still walking on the roof. His shadow was falling on the roof next to him, thankfully - the two Pokemon below him did not notice him. They didn't speak, only nodded to each other and headed deeper into the back alley. Chantalai leaped on the building behind the church to get a better view of the pair as they moved along. He observed them closely with his keen eyes piercing through the darkness. They seemed to be opening some kind of door; the Zoroark leaped down, landing quietly behind them. The illusion he had created manipulated the surrounding darkness, which now served as his veil. The Pope and the Baron walked inside the secret opening behind the church and Chantalai slipped behind them.
Stairs took them to a corridor lighted up by bizarre blue flames. They started walking through under the menacing light, with Chantalai invisible behind them, keeping a safe distance. It seemed like they were walking for days; the Zoroark knew they were directed to the northeast. A distant sound found its way into Chantalai's powerful ears. It was intensifying as they approached to its source; he counted one mile before the corridor ended. His hearing had definitely improved greatly in a single day.
Soon, the black stone that was shapen by Pokemon to form the corridor's floors and walls disappeared, giving its place to harsh rocks. It was now a tunnel; the tunnel led them to the source of the rambling sound: an underground river. Chantalai's nostrils twitched under the odd smell. He then detected a source of light. His illusion of darkness still protecting him, he looked up at the ceiling and gasped from the sight. An architectural wonder was unfolding in front of his eyes. Cliffs, full of green, formed the walls of the cavern. Sun rays entered from the ceiling, A great template on the ground held seven ten-feet cylinders made from stone, four of them made from white stone on the left side of the template and three on the right, made from black stone. There were black rocks scattered around the spot where the last black cylinder was supposed to be was, as if it was destroyed. The vigorous river was rambling under the template.
Chantalai realized the template was some kind of bridge as he followed the other too, who were not looking around with the same excitement he had. When the Zoroark approached the cylinders, he noticed that they beared strange runic symbols that flashed blue. He opened his eyes wide, examining them; their light seemed to be from another world. Chantalai launched himself from the ground silently, easily, grabbing the edge of the black cylinder, pulling himself up and staring down at his targets, who had now stopped in the middle of the template. He then felt the presence of something else in the chamber; on the edge of his eyesight, he caught a massive white figure which was dwelling on the left end of the chamber. Its dragonic structure, standing at above fifty feet, was extremely overwhelming, the light falling onto its white snout, transforming it into a menacing monstrosity. Chantalai had trouble taking his eyes from the statue, which seemed so realistic; he wondered where the dragon was looking... at the right end of the chamber was another massive statue of a draconic figure, only this time it was completly black. The two Pokemon of the statues seemed to be staring at each other. Chantalai noticed the river appeared from below the white statue, crossing the chamber, flow under the template-bridge and disappeared under the black statue.
A cold, unused voice snapped Chantalai from his thoughts about the chamber. He stared at the Dusknoir and the Honchkrow below, always invisible.
'I welcome you, Pope of the Dark Cult, my greatest ally.'
The Honchkrow said quietly, nodding at the Dusknoir.
'How are things progressing?
He inquired, with a steel tone. The Baron rubbed his etheral hands.
'The operation is running smoothly, master. My mercenaries have conquered every corner of Erca and are shuting down any shops that open without my permission. It's safe to say that I am the new Merchant King! Ah yes, the people of this city declared me that.'
Chantalai detected a passion for glory and recognition in the Baron's voice, and the way he said those things made the Zoroark want to leap down on the template and kill them both on the spot. But he waited, he waited for the best possible amount of information this meeting would give him.
'I see, I see.. I hope you are using the gold we gave you with utmost care.'
'But of course, the gold is safe within the walls of the church as requested.'
'We have invested a great deal of the Dark Cult's gold into this city, Baron, and if it is lost, the responsibility will fall heavy on you.'
'I have understood that, master.'
The Baron's words were cold, and the Pope noticed that.
'I am simply reminding you. If we are to spread the God's will around this foreign land, we might be able to prevent the Cataclysm from blasting it to the Nether Plane. That would be... such a waste, don't you agree?'
Chantalai eyed the Pope. He seemed more collected than the Baron; he was calm, Chantalai even thought he was wise Pokemon. That sparked a doubt within him - what if the Dark Cult was fighting for a good purpose? He looked around in the chamber. What was this place? What Pokemon were these statues representing? All this was strange in his mind, the Dark Cult's religion seemed untouchable. It was like the Frontier was raising a barrier between it and the invaders that possessed this new knowledge, claiming they have predicted the so-called Cataclysm and that they already know how to stop it. Chantalai shook off any doubts as he stared at the white statue. Then it struck him - were those two Pokemon were the Gods of White and Black. He peered at both of the statues with respect, especially the White God that had enlightened his path back when he was crossing the Wastelands. The thought that what the Dark Cult represented could be true circled around in his mind; he promised himself he would investigate the Cult further, while still siding with the Frontier.
Lanterno's red eyes reflected the light that was coming from above. His wings remained attached to his body the whole time. His firm attitude made Chantalai think he was truly a great Pokemon and recognized him as a worthy opponent. He was even surprised the Pope had not noticed his presence on top of the black cylinder. Looking at the Honchkrow, he realized something was strange with him - it seemed like that Pokemon was not what it appeared to be. Chantalai wondered what was going on with the shape that seemed to change slightly under the unearthly light. Necro, on the other side, was staring at the light; the chamber did not look like it had a ceiling, yet only a few rays of light reached the template. The Zoroark took his eyes from the two, now looking at the statues again, which had caught his attention. They had charmed him, like the girls of his hometown used to do, like Alinthea did; he memorized their shape and characteristics, carving them deep into his mind.
'So, have you uncovered all the secrets of this temple?' asked firmly Baron Necro. The Pope gave him a disappointed look. 'You mean to tell me that you have not looked into it yourself?'
Chantalai could feel the Dusknoir's nervousness in his voice as he told an obvious lie. 'Yes... Of course I have, master. But the temple has proven out to be far more trickier than I expected.'
Lanterno shook his head. 'You are a ghost. These things should be your specialty. We did not hire you only to pose as a King.' His austere tone made Chantalai grin, as he thought the Pope was secretly having fun. That grin became even bigger when he detected the Baron's offense in his words.
'I run Erca, I'm not only a poser.' The Honchkrow laughed, but said nothing in return.
'The kidnapping of the step daugher of Lumos is a crucial step to ensure our victory. That way, we will completly ward the city off from the Frontier, but you have done nothing towards that matter.'
The Dusknoir nodded slowly, 'I will see to it that she will be taken to the hospital, where she will be kept captive, with the excuse of paranoia. Rumours say she sees an Ice Spirit... who will prevent us from believing those rumours?'
The Baron's words were spoken as if he was grinning; Chantalai felt the urge to kill them again. The Pope seemed content, only for a moment. He spoke after a few minutes, looking over at the broken black cylinder.
'See that cylinder over there? We found the darkstar inside it. I would expect the rest of the cylinders had the same fate when we entrusted you with the Divine Temple.'
'I am sorry, master, but I am not in the frame of mind to deal with this temple - the city has kept me busy with its responsibilities.'
The smirk on the Honchkrow's face showed his exact thoughts: he did not believe one word the Baron was saying. He continued to stare at the cylinders; Chantalai realized he would be seen if he stayed on top of the cylinder for more. He would wonder what a Darkstar was later, now spying on them unnoticed was his priority. But, the light had gotten intense as the sun was falling straight down the template, the darkness had faded, and so Chantalai's illusion. Suddenly, for a frightening moment, the Pope's eyes met the Zoroark's, who was owling on top of the black cylinder. Lanterno let out a cry, the Dusknoir jerking his head towards the hoodied assailant.
Chantalai stayed frozen on the spot, considering his options. Talking would get him some time; he would later scold himself for having dropped his illusion. Now, he would scare them away with some tricks - he thought it's better to be feared than to be unknown. He had no plans of striking either of them, and the time they would spend protecting themselves for him would be valuable.
'And who would you be?' Lanterno asked with a worried tone.
'I am many things' said Chantalai with a grin they could not see under the hood. He showed absolutly no fear, already making him a considerable opponent for the two of them. The Pope and the Baron glanced at each other, Chantalai noticing that. His laugh sounded menacing, exactly how he wanted it to be. He knew that these two were well-aware that only somebody dedicated would follow them there, somebody who would have intentions to harm their well-thought out plans. Lanterno seemed disturbed.
'And what are you going to do now that you overheard our little conversation?'
His tone was sarcastic; Chantalai did not lose his self conciousness and responded in a joking manner that sounded serious after all.
'Your so called Gods are listening to us... what if they came alive?' Chantalai's red eyes flashed strangely and Lanterno broke eye contact, now staring at the two giant statues. The ancient Gods had woken up from their slumber, approaching the template with the ground shaking with every step they took with their massive feet. The Zoroark landed softly behind them. He knew he had to play this correctly in order for him to stay alive; it did not matter that they had seen him, only that he had acquired invaluable information.
The Gods roared with might, staring at the puny creatures that were frozen on the ground below them. Their feet were deep inside the river, but its flow seemed unnaffected - not like his enemies noticed the paradox. Darkness and light arose like tidal waves and hit the template like earthquakes, making the two run away in fear for their lives. The Honchkrow turned his head for one last look at Chantalai. A massive monstrosity was coming out of his hood, the Arbok that was made from green, ominous fire. It hissed and charged at the Pope who ran, almost flying, even faster inside the tunnel with the Baron. Just then, a cracking noise was heard and the tunnel collapsed, the grin on Chantalai's face disappearing. He dashed towards the collapsed exit, only to see darkness fading from the rocks; the Dusknoir had destroyed his way out.
Chantalai fell on his knees, dazed from the size of the illusion he had just created. After a minute, he was starting to get back to his senses and tried moving the stones, but they wouldn't budge. He let out his anger by passing more darkness from his hands to the black stone. After some time he spent laying on the floor, recovering from the dizyness, he convinced himself that illusions should not be used as an offensive mechanism and he regretted his arrogance; who would he have to brag about scaring the two most important Pokemon in southern Stygia
if he died in a hole like this?
The Zoroark looked around the Divine Temple. The light coming from above was his only hope, but he had no way of reaching it. He examined the chamber more closely, noticing the grassy cliffs.
They are easily climbable
, he thought. Then his eyes fell on the Black God; the statue's figure, which he had used so arrogantly in a mere illusion seemed to be staring back at him. Chantalai, fearless as always, keeping his calm, headed towards the statue from the river's coast. Only then he realized its rambling sound and how much it disturbed his sensitive ears.
On the feet of the statue, there was another template, where the waters of the river disappeared under it. The draconic figure that was moving so convincingly a moment ago was towering above Chantalai's head. He stared at the Black God, admiring the characteristics of his body; he didn't know if he felt respect for his image or for the power emanating from the statue. Then, his eyes fell on some runes that were carved onto the template, right next to its right feet. With his curiosity intrigued, Chantalai kneeled to examine them. He had nowhere to write them onto, so he put the left end of his cloak across the runes, picked up some dirt with his claw and started copying the runes one by one, thinking he would later try to translate them.
When Chantalai was finished, he smiled. He thought that if he ever got out of the temple, the time he spent here would be worth it, as he would have learned more of this mysterious religion the Dark Cult was so passionate about spreading. His thoughts travelled to Alinthea, him suddenly remembering that the Baron would hold her to hospital if he found her - and Chantalai was trapped inside a cave, unable to protect her. He shivered in the thought of the hospital; Conrad had told him that it was not a place where sick Pokemon would go, those would just be healed by the medicine the Kecleon nomads were selling around the city. The hospital was a place of living horror, as Pokemon whose spiritual health was shaken were supposedly imprisoned there. But Chantalai knew from Conrad that the Baron was using it as a prison to throw every Pokemon who would defy him, and torture them until they died.
Chantalai shook his head in anger and disgust. He promised revenge to himself and all the Ercans, as well as the Frontier. Trying to focus on getting out, he started climbing the statue, sticking his claws wherever he could; the black stone it was made of was impenetrable, however, and he needed to muster all of his climbing talent to reach the head of the statue. The head of the dragon had brimming red eyes that seemed real as the glowed in the darkness. Chantalai realized they were made from rubies, after a closer inspection.
From the black dragon's head, he started climbing the cliff. It was very easy for him as he spent a great deal of his childhood climbing this kind of cliffs. He was soon hanging from the ceiling's grass, but as he progressed towards the center of the chamber, where the light was coming out of a hole, the grass disappeared. It was then when he realized he was in a dangerous position; the river was continuing to flow vigorously beneath him, and if he fell down, it would certainly drag him to his death. A sound was heard from above and the rock ceiling started collapsing, not being able to handle the Zoroark's weight. Chantalai had one second to leap in any direction in order to avoid falling into the river. His feline instincts tingling as he fell towards the template, his hand grasped something unseeable right before he fell, reducing his fall. He landed right on the black cylinder he was standing half an hour ago, instanly raising his head upwards to see the whole ceiling collapsing onto the chamber. His hands were joined together, like back in the wastelands, in a prayer to the Gods, specifically the Black one. It only lasted a second. The next second there was darkness.
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